San Francisco Giants‘ general manager Brian Sabean recently pulled the trigger on free agent outfielder Michael Morse, who is expected to receive a bulk of the playing time in left field for the orange and black in 2014. The move helps solidify the Giants’ power-laden lineup, as Morse presents high reward for minimal risk.
The 31-year-old right-handed slugger endured the worst season of his nine-year big league career last season, posting a dismal .215 batting average with 13 home runs in 312 at-bats. Morse is a serious power threat, however, a component formerly absent from the Giants’ lineup. The former third-round draft pick crushed 31 home runs and mounted a whopping .910 OPS for the Washington Nationals in 2011.
Morse figures to resurrect some degree of past success upon returning to the National League next season, especially if he’s able to stay healthy. He was able to play in just 88 games last season, which dampened his ability to get into a rhythm at the plate. Morse owns a career .334 on-base percentage and .473 slugging percentage. If he’s able to ascertain those numbers in 2014, he’ll be a positive proponent in the Giants’ lineup.
The biggest negative surrounding the Giants’ decision to sign Morse is his supposed inept ability to play high-caliber defense. The Giants’ predisposed formula for success is based on quality starting pitching and stellar defense, but a majority of pundits dub Morse a below average fielder; still, his numbers say otherwise.
Morse has been relatively efficient while playing the corner spots in the outfield. He owns a career .996 fielding percentage in left field, committing one error over the course of 153 games. Morse doesn’t possess a ton of range though, which figures to be somewhat problematic in a spacious outfield at AT&T Park. The most important aspect to consider is that Morse typically makes the plays he’s supposed to.
The Giants signed Morse in an effort to shore up their middling lineup, which arguably underachieved in 2013. San Francisco struggled in clutch situations, specifically with two outs and runners in scoring position. The addition of Morse should increase the potency of the Giants’ lineup, while also improving their ability to hit in the clutch.
The move will ease some pressure off key positional players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, who are frequently relied upon to achieve a bulk of the Giants’ run production. Adding Morse to the Giants’ 25-man roster also allows speedy outfielder Gregor Blanco to fall back into a reserve role, which will enable manager Bruce Bochy some flexibility during tight games in the late innings.
Sabean and Co. opted to be patient during the progressions of Winter Meetings, while refusing to dish out a big contract to a so-called “marquee” free agent like Carlos Beltran or Jacoby Ellsbury. The addition of Morse is a solid left field upgrade for the Giants, although it’s not a fool-proof acquisition, given Morse’s recent struggles.
Morse boasts big-time upside for a reported salary of $6 million over one season, although it remains to be seen if he’s good enough to be a legitimate difference-maker for the Giants.